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Facebook 'dislike' still lets bullies troll net at will

By Beulah Maud Devaney

Published 19/09/2015

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Ever since Facebook introduced its iconic 'like' button in 2009, users have been clamouring for a matching 'dislike' button. The wait is finally over. On Tuesday, the social media network's founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that Facebook is working on a 'dislike' option to reflect the fact that, in his words, "not every moment is a good moment".

While designed to bring more emotional nuance to Facebook, the introduction of a 'dislike' button is another example of the social media platform's failure to protect users from online harassment.

Zuckerberg was keen to stress that the button is not designed to 'down vote' posts, but instead to offer a way for people to show sympathy for others when they share bad, sad, or frustrating news.

But with so many of us experiencing online harassment and reports that seven out of 10 young people in the UK have been the victim of cyberbullying, I greet the introduction of this new Facebook function with trepidation.

Facebook has a long history of failing to protect vulnerable users from cyberbullying.

The platform's unwieldy form for reporting abuse is infamous for telling users to just ignore or 'unfriend' their harassers.

Memorial pages are often bombarded by trolls, mocking grieving families. A 'dislike' button will now make it even easier for bullies to target their victims.

It will take abusers a matter of minutes to scroll through every post on a user's page, clicking dislike and adding to the overwhelming onslaught of negativity that many victims experience when they log into Facebook.

The failure to mention community guidelines, or support, reveals that protecting users from cyberbullies is simply not a priority for Facebook.

As Zuckerberg's comments demonstrate, it's not fair to suggest that Facebook is unaware of the potential for this scheme to go awry.

By acknowledging the potential for the 'dislike' button to be misused, the social network is effectively covering itself against future accusations that it does not take online harassment seriously.

People who don't use Facebook often, or are completely unfamiliar with the platform, can be forgiven for thinking that Zuckerberg simply saying the 'dislike' button should not be abused will be enough to stop misuse.

It won't. Words must be matched by actions.

Belfast Telegraph

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